What: My personal favourits for sightseeing and more in the…
What: A weekend in French Castles
Where: Loire Valley, France
I love France! The language and culture, and not to forget the food! And when the best friends invite you for a weekend to France into the valley of the Loire to celebrate a special wedding day, then this is très chic and lets my heart leap with joy. Especially now in autumn when the nature turns into a blaze of color and the sun still caters for warm moments under blue sky.
About two hours by car in the southwest from Paris lies the Manoir de Contres, a family-run, down-to-earth hotel in a 200 years old, charming manor that is owned by Victor Orsenne and his wife Marie – the sister of my friend and host – and is ideally the trailhead for diverse trips into the cultural assets and small, idyllic places along the countryside of the Loire.
Someone lucky starts the day with a coffee in the sun on the wonderful terrace of the Manoir de Contres. And listens to the small anecdotes, which Victor, the patron, has to tell, whilst enjoying homemade marmalade, delicious croissants and fresh fruits: how he, a French, got to know Maria, a native of Hamburg, in a hotel management school in the Swiss Lausanne. How both of them led two small boutique-hotels in Paris and someday asked themselves, whether life offers something new. When the manor in the little town Contres, which was previously inhabited, was on offer; the Orsennes didn’t hesitate long, renovated all eight rooms. Adieu metropolis, bonjour country life. This happened four years ago and was a good decision.
Because the Val de Loire in the heart of France is a popular travel-region, not only for gourmets and wine lovers, but also for fans of the French cuisine. More than 300 castles and fortresses – built by emperors, kings and the French aristocracy from different epochs – of which about 100 can still be visited, string together, like pearls on a cord.
At this time of the year the endless columns of bus-tourists already left, one has the region mostly for oneself. Famous is the Château de Chambord, former hunting castle of Louis XIV, which is the biggest château at the Loire under the renaissance castles with its 400 rooms, crenellation and towers on the largest park-area Europe’s with 5.440 hectares. But there’re also some real insider tips, in which one can amble along the halls just by oneself and seems to hear the haunting castle ghost giggling behind the screen. For example the Valençay or the castle Cheverny (more soon). Indeed there’s a numerous amount of castles that are lead and inhabited by aristocratic families since generations.
In order to get not sick of all the castles I recommend to narrow down the choice to a couple of castles – otherwise you’ll end up with a real castle-marathon: it’s best to focus on one to two castles per day. Then in the evening you’ll still be able to assign the castles that you saw during the day.
Apropos evening: Victor, the Maître of the Manoir is a gifted cook and his magic arts at the stove are not only reserved for this hotel guests. We got spoiled by a salad of green beans and crayfish tails, followed by scallops with rose pepper, veal medallions in clear estragon sauce and the delicious potato gratin, which I ate. In conclusion goat cheese from the Loire valley and ‘Framboisier du Manoir’ out of white chocolate mousse with fresh raspberries. Accompanied by wonderful wines from the in-house, comprehensive cellar of the Manoir de Contres and its perfect, attentive service, which couldn’t be better even in four- or five-start-hotels: Savoir vivre! What else could you wish for? BvH
Et voilà, le menu:
Exclusive tips by Maria Orsenne …
… for a perfect day in and around Contres. How about a trip to the famous limestone caves, the so called ‘caves-troglodytiques’, in which different wineries store their wines, for example the winery Monmousseau with its wonderful Crémants near Château de Chenonceau. The wine tastings take place inside the illuminated rock caves.
A friendly lunch address is the ‘Les Trois Marchands’ in Cour-Cheverny. From there you can drive onwards to the chocolate manufactory Max Vouché in Bracieux (near Chambord). On the weekend it’s worth to visit the Sunday market in Amboise between 8 am and 1.30 pm directly at the shore of the Loire with up to 200 market stands. What will you find there? Everything!
Le Manoir de Contres
23, Rue des Combattants d’Afrique en AFN
41700 Contres, France
The castle posts about Cheverny and Valençay. Soon on MyStylery!
Featured pic and pics marked* by Giacomo Morelli